The recent whistleblower complaint against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused him of questionable activities. Aside from using State Department staff for personal use like running errands, there is the more serious: Apparently, he has approved controversial arms sales secretly without proper congressional oversight.
It also turns out that the department’s own Inspector General, Steve Linick, was about to conclude an investigation and file his report, when he was fired by President Trump. Shenanigans may be de rigueur for the Trump administration, but there is a wider question:
Is there a Trump foreign policy? That is, aside from crawling back into a shell like a frightened mollusk to the contempt of friends and rivals alike. Well, retreat is a policy but ‘making America great again,’ Trump’s famous MAGA does not appear to be synchronous with it.
The umbrellas defending Europe and Japan also enhance trade. And if Russia is not looking for full-scale war, it is not averse to economic advantage. Neither is China … as has happened with Iran.
Threatening Iran with war in search of a ‘better’ deal, Mr. Trump has scrapped a nuclear agreement to the consternation of European signatories. Iran has since jumped into China’s open arms which also embrace Russia. Pakistan used to be a long-time ally of the U.S. but its treatment after the Afghan war has led to a festering resentment; and with Pakistan goes Afghanistan. Pakistan is also bonded strongly to China and has been for decades. All of which has left India as Trump’s new friend, although backing India against China might be not unlike betting on a mangy draft horse against a racing thoroughbred.
Thus the new alignments. China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan on one side of India and China’s ally Myanmar on the other. That is not all. Iraq’s Shia-centered government and Syria’s are closely allied with Iran as are Lebanon’s Shia, now the most powerful sect (thanks to Iran) in the country. Indeed a sorry picture particularly after the $2.5 trillion Iraq and Afghanistan wars, plus the lives lost on both sides … that run into the hundreds of thousands in the countries torn apart. The long-term effects are apparent in the refugees crowding Europe that Mr. Trump is busy banning from the US.
So what is US foreign policy? Damned if I know. A hodge-podge of actions seemingly taken by an unstable drunk setting a fire that has changed the landscape. And the future …
A peek out of that mollusk shell reveals a new world with existential challenges like climate change, a raging pandemic, and a disappearing middle class as good jobs vanish. It is a time to focus on renewal, to tackle global problems in concert with other nations, equitably without trying to win at the other’s expense. The Art of the Deal, borrowing the title from that book you ostensibly wrote Mr. Trump, is not winning but reaching a fair deal that keeps both sides happy. And thus willing to work together towards common solutions to the difficult problems ahead, problems requiring global not unilateral solutions.